Wanderlusting

My mind lately has been very occupied by the thoughts of travelling. I think it’s safe to say that the travel bug has well and truly taken over me. I want to travel the world and experience the different cultures of far away countries. And thinking back, it’s funny to see this part of my life playing out this way. It’s not something that i’ve always wanted to do, it’s literally something that has started in only the last 3 or so years. You look back to the type of kid that I was 10, 15 years ago and you would have never have thought it. I remember being on a passenger ferry as a young child and I refused to have my feet touching the ground. I hated being on that damn ferry! I also hated being away from home and my family overnight. I dont think I went on a school camp until I was in year 7! And here I am today. Lets face it, these days, I spend so much time on cruise ships, that i may as well be living on one. And I hope for rough seas. The bigger the seas, the more fun and better.  And I travel 95% of my trips solo, by myself and not knowing a single person. Complete contrast to child me!

But what changed? I had vacationed within Australia before and it never brought out the passion to want to travel. But then I got my passport and went on my first cruise out of the country (to the South Pacific back in 2015), and my inner cruise spirit got awakened. I loved it! I loved it so much that I booked another cruise with a friend only 5 months later. It was to the same place, but I loved it all the same. I could do the things that I missed on the first trip. And then I went on another one with another friend only 2 months later. That time, to Papua New Guinea. I found that each cruise that I did, i got off loving it even more and needing more. Now it’s the beginning of 2019 and I’ve just finished my 12th cruise, and number 13 & 14 are planned for June. One of the reasons that I liked cruising (amongst other reasons) is because I didn’t have to fly. I could travel to places without having to set foot on a plane. However, there’s only so many places  you can cruise to from Brisbane (meaning I didn’t have to fly anywhere), and if I wanted to start seeing all my bucket-list places overseas, I was going to have to fly to different countries. So I started with baby steps and booked cruises from Sydney, and taking the 1.5hour flight down to Sydney. I did that a few times before deciding I was ready to try something bigger and better, and cruised from New Zealand. Flying 3 hours to Auckland to board a ship, I was pretty much a nervous wreck and had no idea what I was doing. It was my first international flight, and i was by myself. But it was that flight and adventure that really opened up my desire to want to travel more, and to conquer my fear of flying and to go see the world. Because if I could do that, then I could do anything. And now because of that, I’ve got a 14hour flight to Vancouver, Canada to cruise around Alaska in June! I think i’ve come a long way!

I said that one of the reasons i loved cruising, was because I could travel without flying. Well, if I’m willing to fly places to cruise, then that can’t really be one of the main reasons anymore! But aside from that, I’ll always love cruising for many other reasons. One being the convenience of it. Once you’ve paid for a cruise, you only have to worry about how much you’re drinking, and whatever you want to do on land! One price and your accommodation is paid for, your meals are paid for, your entertainment is paid for, you dont have to worry about how you’re getting back to where you’re staying after a few drinks at dinner (…well, that’s not always easy as all the hallways look the same when you’re sober, so when you’ve had a few drinks, it can be a littleee bit confusing trying to find your cabin! I may be talking from experience here ;)).

But the second reason, and probably more bigger of a reason the the first one, is the experience of it all. It’s not just a mode of transport to get to a location. I love being on the ship. I love being out on the ocean surrounded by nothing but water. You haven’t seen an amazing sunset until you’ve seen one from the middle of the ocean! I love falling asleep to the rocking of the ship. Some people hate the sea days because they’re on it only to get from A to B. Which is what I thought I’d be like on my first cruise. But after so many, i’ve realized that the experience of cruising is more than just getting to your destination. Sitting out on a quiet deck watching the sun set over the ocean and the sound of the ship pushing through the waves is the definition of serenity.

It obviously has it’s downsides, as you dont get to spend more than one day in a destination. So you’ll never get to see everything a place has to offer. And you’ll be going to tourist destinations, as opposed to finding places that are off the beaten track that the locals know. But you get to go to many different places in one trip, so if I find somewhere that I really love and want to explore more, then i’ll make sure I visit again, not on a cruise and really see what the place has to offer. And my thoughts on this have changed a lot lately. Not too long ago, my focus was more towards purely travelling and seeing the world by cruising. And while that’s something that I still want to do, i’ve realized that the words ‘vacation’ and ‘travel’ have two different meanings. Vacation can always include travel and travelling, but travelling doesn’t always mean ‘vacation’.

My guilty pleasure? Travel doco’s on Netflix. I love watching them and the more I watch them, the more I antsy I get to want to go travel the world. At the moment, i guess you can say my inspiration to want to do this, is a series called ‘Departures’. It’s 2 guys from Toronto who packed up and travelled the world in year. And it shows everything they went through, the good and the bads. This is what made me think about the difference between a vacation, and travelling the world. To me, a vacation is a cruise. Or staying in a resort. You know, lying by the pool, drinking cocktails. Going out for dinner in a restaurant where the chances of you getting food poisoning are low. Not having to worrying about anything. However travelling and seeing the world is not necessarily that. It’s seeing places for what they really are. Going to third world countries where you have to watch what you eat and drink. Where it might be a bit dangerous, or you wouldn’t go walking outside at night. Where it’s a whole different culture that you have absolutely no idea about and you really ‘relax’ the entire time. To some people, that’s not appealing. And up until about a year or so ago, it wasn’t something that I ever wanted to do. But lately I have realized it is actually what I want to do. And watching these travel doco’s have certainly inspired me into realizing this. To have adventure and see the world for what it really is. Cruising so much, i’ve met and stayed friends with many people from all over the world who would happily help me out if I was to ever venture into their neck of the woods. And travelling by yourself, that’s always a good thing to have!

To all you travellers, adventurers, people who have been all over the world, what inspired you to want to travel and be adventurous? Was it something that you always wanted to do, or like me, watching other peoples experiences??

If anyone wants any inspiration or enjoys a good travel doco, here are a few that i highly recommend on Netflix!

  • Departures
  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
  • The kindness diaries

But, first things first, and that’s my upcoming adventures to Vancouver and Alaska! Only 74 more days, and I still have a LOT to do before then!

C.

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Auckland firsts (Sept ’18)

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Auckland city

I just got back from my latest cruise a couple of weeks ago, and am still suffering from cruise blues. Yes it’s a real thing! You’re sitting at home wondering what you did with your life before you went away. How did I handle making my own breakfast,lunch and dinner, or my bed? Where’s the little chocolates on my pillow every night?? What do I do instead of heading to bar each evening before dinner to chat to my favorite bar tenders and have them make my favorite cocktail without me even having to ask??? It’s a tough life on-board a cruise!

That was the 8th or 9th cruise I’ve done. I’ve lost count these days. However, it was the first time I’ve flown internationally. And doing it all by myself (i’m also someone who is not really a fan of flying to top it off). So this was going to be a bit of an adventure just getting to the ship, which would be waiting for me in Auckland, NZ, before heading back across the ditch to Sydney, then up to Brisbane, and continuing to the beautiful Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas, Willis Island then back to Sydney.

I mentioned in the last post that it was the customs officer who made me realize i’m a cruise addict! I arrived at about 6pm after a rough landing that felt like the pilot forgot where the brakes were, so  I was feeling quite anxious and nervous not knowing what to expect next; I’ve watched a lot of Border Security so I know what they do to people who look nervous and suss! Anyway, the guy asks me how long i’m in NZ for, I say a day and tell him i’m cruising home.
“Would you say you’re addicted to cruising?” he asks. Uh do they have all this stuff on secret file or something? How does he know how many I’ve been on?! I tell him how many i’ve done and he tells me i’m definitely addicted and sends me on my way. I’m happy, i made it out of the airport to my shuttle bus and not onto an episode of Border Security!

7.30pm and i finally make it to my questionable hotel right int the middle of the city that looked nothing like what I booked, and with a receptionist who spoke everything bar english! The beds were basically in the kitchen with a random pipe sticking out of the wall, and the toilet pretty much IN the shower. I had to leave the door open to shower because there was no light in there, and in turn allowed all the water from the shower to go all over the bedroom/kitchen floor. And then had a very wet floor whenever i need to go to the bathroom. Thankfully I was only there to sleep. I walked out onto my ‘balcony’ (i use that term loosely) and had an amazing view of the Auckland Skytower lit up, so wasn’t all bad. Although the daytime view….I woke up to a view resembling a warzone!

I left my 22kg suitcase with the hotel the next day while i wandered around Auckland. It was a lot colder than i was expecting, but just as pretty. It’s not super big, and it’s got all the usual shops you’d find in a city – I’m not a city girl at all (grew up in Melbourne) but there’s something about Auckland that I like and i enjoyed my day walking around. I admit, the first stop i made was breakfast….at McDonalds. I know, i go to a different country and eat exactly what i can get at home. I’m a sucker for sausage mcmuffins though! I shopped, checked out the ship docked at Queens Wharf, and just took in all the sights before heading back to the hotel,then struggling down the streets of Auckland city with my 22kg suitcase in tow, and my excitement building higher than the SkyTower.

One thing i did notice, was my accent! I felt extremely Australian…I would walk into a shop and they’d ask me how I was going, and whenever i replied I would almost start laughing because for the first time in my life I could  actually hear my accent! And the money! All the coins are the opposite of our Australian ones. $1 coins are the size of our $2 coins and vice versa. Same with 5c,10c etc. Quite often I felt like i was being that annoying customer taking forever to find the money and just wanted to hold the coins out and be like “here, take what you need”!

So that was part 1 of my adventure, I managed to navigate myself successfully to my hotel in another country in one piece by myself! Stay tuned for the next part.
​C.

New Zealand (March ’18)

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Fiordlands

I’m a sucker for the heat, so all of my cruises have been to somewhere warm and tropical. Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands. Back in March I took my first cruise to a place not known for its warmth: New Zealand. To be fair, it was a second choice to the warm and tropical Fiji, but unfortunately it had sold out by the time we went to book it – so New Zealand it was!
I went with a friend who I hadn’t seen since high school, some 12 or something years ago (you know you’re old when you cant remember when you were in high school!) so it was a good reunion. I haven’t had much luck with finding people to cruise with who enjoyed it enough to come back with me (most of the reason why i travel by myself), but she loves cruising as well so it was bound to be a good trip.
She flew from Melbourne, I flew from Brisbane and we met up in Sydney the day before. Sydney is not a favourite place of mine. It’s so busy and everyone is always in a rush. I have never heard so many car horns before in one place, and if it’s raining….god help your eyeballs from being poked out by the hundreds of umbrellas! It just so happened to be the Mardi Gras weekend when we arrived, but we didn’t know it until we saw multitudes of people walking the streets dressed up in bright colours. The next day we were walking through the city and got caught up in a protest of thousands of people parading through the city. I never found out what it was for, but it was the biggest i’ve ever seen. Those 24 hours in Sydney reiterated to me why I don’t like Sydney!

Every time i see a cruise ship docked and i’m about to embark on another cruise, i get this feeling of happiness. It’s almost like i’m back to where i’m supposed to be, like it’s a second home. Everyone laughs when i explain it like that but i guess you have to love cruising to understand it.
Anyway i got that feeling again as we walked up to the ship, me struggling with my heavy suitcase like usual. That’s probably a good reason for me to fly to a port first, because then i’m limited on how much I take! Otherwise I would probably sink the ship.

First thing we did when we boarded the Sun Princess, was hit the bar for frozen daiquiris! Sydney was still quite warm and I had a feeling it was going to be getting quite cold in the next few days. We were going to be heading down across the Tasman to the south island where we would first cruise through the Fiordlands national park, then make our way up to Dunedin, Akaroa, then to the north island to see Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland and finally Bay of Isles before heading back to Sydney.

I’m someone who generally makes the most of the days on a cruise. I’ll stay up late until everything is finished, and dont like to sleep in too late so I dont miss anything.The first night it was quite rough and for the first time ever, I wasn’t feeling great. I took a seasickness table and put myself to bed after managing to last out and about until about 10pm (early for me!) and passing out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Seasickness tablets knock me out! On sea days, at midday, the captain will make an announcement and ring bells to signal that it’s midday, and give us an update on our location. If there are bells ringing in the middle of the night in your cabin, it’s emergency signal going off. You know, aka we’re sinking. I woke up from my slumber that night to pitch darkness (damn interior cabins), bells ringing in my cabin and the captains voice. Cue panic because i’m thinking we’re sinking, as Ive just been woken from the deepest sleep i’ve ever been in by the emergency alarms going off. I finally find my clock…its midday and was just the captains midday call. I had managed to sleep for a whole 14 hours..which was good, except that i’d missed all the fun morning activities, including signing up for the egg drop challenge! Since then, i’ve always set an alarm, and stopped taking seasickness tablets!

Entering the Fiordlands the next day was a spectacular sight! We woke up at 6.30am to watch us sail in and that is the earliest i’ve ever woken up on a cruise, but was totally worth it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining down all the mountain peaks, which towered over the ship on both sides, not leaving much room for us to sail through and making the ship feel tiny. Unfortunately, it was very windy and absolutely freezing so staying up on deck at the front of the ship where the best view was, was not long lasting. But I still managed to get some amazing photos of the huge waterfalls and snow capped mountain peaks before retreating back inside to the warmth. Because of tides and the wind we couldn’t go all the way the through, so we turned around (i still dont know how in such a small area!) and starting heading towards our next destination, Dunedin, and I went back to bed for some much needed ZZZZZ’s!

We reached a very wet and very cold Dunedin the next morning. I was already starting to miss the warm weather after only 4 cold days! Dunedin reminds me of what i would imagine Scotland or England to be like – grey, wet, and old! It was a nice little historical looking town though. My friends sister lives here, so she picked us up from the port and gave us a guided tour of the town. Our first stop? Obviously the Cadbury chocolate factory! We took a guided tour through the whole factory and was shown how they make all the different chocolates. We were given a goody bag at the beginning, and each time we stopped at an area, we were given different chocolates. We left there with SO much chocolate! The Cadbury factory has actually closed down now, so we were very lucky to go there when we did.
Our next stop was Baldwin Street. Baldwin street is the worlds steepest street. And it doesn’t look it….until you go to walk up it! I think we got halfway up before stopping for photos, admiring how steep it was….and then walking back down. Which was a lot easier! The sun had come out by this stage and I was starting to see how nice the town actually was. A quick visit to the beach and it was time to head back to the ship!

Akaroa the next day, was a very quaint little seaside village with cute little cottages and restaurants, and even a few palm trees! It was however, raining and cold again (surprise,surprise…does the south island have any other weather besides rain?!) and I wasn’t feeling very excited about heading over, but we took the tender over anyway, and surprisingly despite the cold wind and rain, actually quite liked it. I can only imagine how pretty it is when the sun’s shining! We didn’t stay over there very long as we got wet and cold, and our day back on the ship consisted of attempting some trivia, bingo and having a drink with our new friends we’d met at the bar.

Wellington (aka the windy city) is just like Sydney, but with less shops. We took a bus into the city from the ship (about 15 minutes) and got off with plans to walk around. Well, we did that in about 30 minutes. The CBD is basically just office buildings with a few shops scattered around. We sat in McDonalds for a bit to use the free wifi and have lunch, then bused it back to the ship. Its definitely very windy in Wellington, my hair did not enjoy it!

When we got back on the ship after visiting ‘the windy city’, we were informed that there was, in fact, a cyclone ahead of us. (I could have sworn the cyclone was in Wellington..) We were currently at the very bottom of the north island, with the intention of heading up the east side of the island and around the top and across to Sydney. Unfortunately, Cyclone Hola had other plans for us, as she was smack bam in our way. So the Captain decided going through the cyclone was a bad idea and changed our route to head up the west side instead and around the top to Auckland. This would then put us behind Hola, and still scheduled to arrive in Auckland on time as there were passengers who were due to disembark there; so missing Auckland was not option. Unfortunately though, it meant we missed out on stopping at Napier and Tauranga instead. To be honest, i was more disappointed we wouldn’t be heading through the cyclone! I know, safety first, but i’ve always wanted to experience really rough stormy seas, like all the ‘cruise from hell’ videos you see from other passengers! Despite us running away from Cyclone Hola, we still got some decent swell, decent enough that you could blame the too many cocktails you had at dinner, on the the ship and waves that was making you walk from side to side and into walls!

We reached Auckland on time, albeit a few hours later than scheduled, but it was a lovely day! We walked around the city and had lunch, but for some reason, i had an urge to want to do something extreme, and different. So what did I choose to do? I decided to do the SkyTower skywalk. Now that doesn’t sound crazy. But it was actually the most terrifying thing i’ve ever done. You walk around a path (thats only about 1m wide, no rails and you can see straight through it down to the streets below) 194m high up with only a harness attached to an overhead safety line. I’m afraid of heights, and i must have picked one one of the windiest days to do it! The guide who leads the group of 5 gets you all to do little ‘challenges’, like leaning or sitting off over the side of the path, basically putting your life trust in that safety harness! I was at the back of the line so I shuffled along at snail pace holding on to my harness for dear life. I didn’t work up the courage to do any of the challenges until the very last one, which was leaning forward out off the path and having my arms outspread and not holding onto the harness. Well, i held on with 1 hand, but i basically did it and i realized that I could definitely not be a bird! I’m very glad and proud that I did it….but I won’t be doing it again anytime soon! (I can probably also scrap climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge off my list too) There is also the option of jumping off the SkyTower, from the same level that we walked around. Those people are crazy!
We got back to the ship and started getting ready for dinner at about 5.30pm, when i discovered I had lost my favourite ring that I always wore. I had to take it off for the sky walk so I was convinced it had either fallen off at the SkyTower, or just outside of the ship. So, cue a mad dash off the ship with security calling after us to make sure we’re back by 6.30pm and a quick search around the terminal, before running 2 blocks to a phone booth to call the SkyTower. It has been a LONG time since i’ve used a public phone and after a couple of minutes of figuring out how to use it, finally got put on hold. For a long time. To be told they had closed and to call back the next day. When we wouldn’t be there. So….I never got that ring back.

That night we had a bit more excitement, with a fire on board. Not a major one, thankfully, but apparently a dishwasher down in the crew area had a hissy fit and quit working. We would never have known though, but the Captain came over the loud speaker informing us and would let us know when the ‘issue’ was resolved. It was a little nerve wracking but i figured since there had been no alarm bells, we weren’t in too much danger of needing the lifeboats! (And i was happy I hadn’t been jolted out of a deep sleep again!) Not 20 minutes later, he came back over the loudspeaker saying that it was under control and everything was good. Cue some cheering from passengers, and we continued on with our Country and Western party.

The next day we reached Bay of Isles. We went to the island of Paihia and it reminded me of Hawaii. Again, i’ve never been to Hawaii, but it’s what i would imagine it to look like. The sun was shining, and it was actually warm! We had a nice fish and chip lunch, some ice cream and just basked in the first lot of warm weather we got. I really enjoyed it here, a lovely little beachside town with lots of shops and palm trees. I think it’s a common trait with me; i love all the places with palm trees.

We boarded back onto the ship to find out that we were going to have to alter our course home due to another cyclone wanting to play havok with us. This one wasn’t intent on wanting to sink us, it was just ‘cruising’ along side of us (see what I did there?), but the captain still wanted to get as far away from it as we could. Still, that night was quite a rough night. Walking around the ship you’d walk into one wall, then cross over into the other side. Hitting the dance floor was even more fun; line dancing wasn’t so much ‘line’ dancing anymore, more people just going in every which direction and into each other with the ships movement. Every now and then, we’d hear a big crash and a huge shudder of the ship as we’d crash into another huge wave. Going up stairs was either really easy (if the ship was coming down off a wave) or really hard (if it was going up a wave) due to gravity. Lying in bed was an experience! Every time we’d go down a wave, you would feel a millisecond of weightlessness and you’d lose your stomach. Then you’d sink into your bed as we rode up a wave, and repeat coming down. I was enjoying every second of it and actually had one of the best sleeps i’d had (besides the first night when I took a seasick tablet!)

The next day was the same, and you tell could a lot of people were starting to feel the effects of it! Meanwhile I was as happy as a pig in mud and having a ball stumbling around the ship. We entered the egg drop challenge that day. I mentioned earlier that sign ups for it were on the second morning, and i slept through them. Well we were determined to enter, so as a last minute contender we rushed around trying to come up with a contraption to enter. The aim was to drop a raw egg from deck 8 to deck 5 and have the egg survive the fall. We tried to be inventive, but in the end,our plan was just to just wrap our egg in a roll of toilet paper, shove it in a paper coffee cup, attach a plastic bag as a parachute and hope for the best! Well after 7 other teams either broke their eggs, or missed the target, it was just us left. The announcer made sure to let everyone know we were late participants because we slept in, and then we dropped our egg. Surprisingly, our cup landed right on the target, AND our egg survived!! We won a bottle champagne, and it did not last long before we’d consumed it all. I made the most of it being the last night, and partied until the early hours of the morning.
After about 30+ hours of constant rough seas, even I was starting to feel a bit nauseas as I went to bed! (although maybe my big night played a part in that!)But i refused to take a seasickness tablet in fear that I would sleep through them disembarkation. (although that wouldn’t have been a bad thing!) Luckily, it was nice and calm by the time we woke up and got ready to leave the ship.

I’ve cruised all over the South Pacific during cyclone season and have never encountered a cyclone, but I go to New Zealand, the last place i’d expect to have cyclones, and we get 2 in one cruise! I guess that proves you can never predict mother nature. But we had a blast on that cruise, and I think we can say it was a successful reunion of our friendship. We might even cruise again together one day, which is more I can say for everyone else that i’ve cruised with haha. We made awesome friends with an older couple who were always at the same bar as us, and we’ve kept in touch with them and might even be catching up on another cruise with them! But if I learned anything from this cruise, it’s that i definitely prefer warmer climates. We got a few warm days where we were able to lie by the pool (we even got sunburned one day!) but the majority of the time it was too cold. New Zealand has some beautiful scenery, and it’s so green and the people are so nice; it’s definitely a place that everyone should at least once in their lives!
C.